Patterico's Pontifications

12/28/2006

L.A. Times (Almost) Admits Ramadi Airstrike Didn’t Happen

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:53 pm

The L.A. Times has finally reported the military’s denial of an airstrike in Ramadi on November 13 or 14, in this story.

The paper doesn’t exactly admit that no airstrike occurred in central Ramadi on November 13 or 14. But new interviews done by the paper’s mysterious unnamed Ramadi stringer have Iraqis saying they “assumed” that it was an airstrike that caused the deaths:

Several residents said that they saw helicopters and a jet fighter during the confrontations and assumed that some of the explosions were caused by airstrikes. U.S. ground units are often accompanied by air support during military operations.

The editors also appear to be backing off of the article’s original claim of 15 “pulverized” houses:

“Six houses were leveled to the ground and 10 others were damaged to varying degrees,” said Ahmad Hummadi, 50, a laborer. “But all of the houses were abandoned because they were no longer suitable for habitation.”

The editors appear to be demanding immediate answers from the military again:

Marines did not immediately respond to inquiries about the total number of civilian dead . . .

Why would Marines need to “immediately respond” to inquiries in a December 28 update to a November 15 story??

This whole issue came up because the L.A. Times demanded an immediate response to its reports of dozens of people killed by an airstrike — and never reported the eventual response, leaving it to me to report the military denial.

I have my own inquiries in to Lt. Col. Salas, and he needn’t respond “immediately.” I’ll give him whatever time he needs to give me an adequate response.

P.S. I hope to have a more extensive post about this soon. I’ve had information about the airstrike for a week, but haven’t been able to post it due to spotty Internet access and family obligations.

UPDATE: I’m sorry. Posting the information I have been sent and placing it in proper context is just too daunting a task given the limited time I have. I’m still learning information that is critical to understanding the pictures I’ve been sent, and I need to be able to explain it all, rather than simply throw it all out there for speculation. This story has waited long enough, and may have to wait a few more days. It’s more important to get it right than just to get it out there. Hopefully I’ll get more reaction from Lt. Col. Salas in the meantime.

In the meantime it’s sufficient to note that not even the L.A. Times is still claiming that the damage was done by an airstrike — only that residents assumed that it was. (Interesting that all these witnesses are now saying they assumed this. Does that seem credible to you — or does it seem like words were put in their mouths with leading questions?) I think that’s much closer to the actual truth, for reasons that should become more clear when I can finally find time to post the information I have received.

UPDATE x2: I will note this: it’s obvious that the only reason that there was any follow-up with Salas is because I did a post questioning the story. But, as with the story of the four burning mosques, there are plenty of other stories that bloggers haven’t questioned, but that might be flawed. I think we’ll never know the extent of the inaccuracies.

UPDATE x3: The L.A. Times story claimed 15 pulverized homes, not 15-20. It was another story (done by enemy propaganda sources) that claimed 15-20. I corrected the post to change “15-20″ to “15.”

30 Responses to “L.A. Times (Almost) Admits Ramadi Airstrike Didn’t Happen”

  1. L.A. Times (Almost) Admits Ramadi Airstrike Didn’t Happen …

    CENTCOM says AP’s Iraqi police source isn’t Iraqi police — Part 26 — Continued from this post. LA Times revisits controversial Ramadi airstrike story See-Dubya Back in November, blogger Patterico spent a lot of time looking into an incident in…

    Bill's Bites (72c8fd)

  2. Web Reconnaissance for 12/29/2006…

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  3. [...] Patterico has noticed (”L.A. Times (Almost) Admits Ramadi Airstrike Didn’t Happen”) and promises much more later. Also, Hot Air has weighed in. [...]

    BizzyBlog » Correcting an LA Times Headline on Its Ramadi Follow-up Story (34f45e)

  4. Only the LAT editors “appear to be backing off?”

    The after-action military press report stated:

    “There were no reports of civilian casualties as a result of the events.

    Coalition Forces have conducted no air strikes in the vicinity of these events today.

    No Coalition Forces were killed during these incidents.”

    It appears there were all three: civilian casualty reports, vicinity air strikes and the loss of American life. Spc. Eric G. Palacios Rivera of Atlantic City, NJ was reported killed in Ramadi in the days fighting.

    Moore updated the story with names, ages and occupations of eyewitnesses, clarifying – and for the most part verifying – earlier-reported events. They’re NOT anonymous sources. Someone can soon roll into town, locate them and have a friendly chat.

    Video of what is said to be the aftermath, aired on Abu Dhabi TV (UAE), shows bodies in coffins on the streets and includes what appears to be remains of a child. There is text and English translation:

    http://dahrjamailiraq.com/mosaic/mosaic.php?id=1108&con=256

    [I can't view the video. Does it appear to be in the middle of farmland, where the airstrike happened? And do you know that the death of Spc. Palacios has any relevance?? -- P]

    steve (820f71)

  5. Patterico:

    I appreciate your persistence on this. I also appreciate (or hope) people are starting to understand just how difficult it really is to sort out events on the ground over there, and why the military is reluctant to give an immediate response. It’s just too easy to get sandbagged and there are always 20 Iraqis-on-the-street to contradict your eyewitness anyway, so the effort is really not as productive as you hope. But still maybe it raises some doubts in those minds that aren’t closed.

    The press have jumped all over stories too many times and their ‘eyewitness’ accounts have turned out to be wrong (witness the 6 – no, 5! – dang! 4 then! DOH! it was only 1! mumble, mumble… ummm…what mosques – say, did you hear about the burning Sunnis????) – mosques damaged in Hurriyah.

    But what do I know. I am sleeping with the enemy :p

    Cassandra (c9069a)

  6. With the immediate response thing, I usually figure that the reporter made a phone call, left a message, and published the report a few seconds later. I doubt they really cared what the military said anyway–like you say, they would have waited. What good lefty reporter needs official sources when they have random supposed civilians and mystery police officers to tell them what they want to hear?

    Jefe (599fc3)

  7. what’s the world coming to when some guy in southern california who only does this part-time as a hobby can be out in front of the mightiest newspaper in the west? is the legacy of modern e-journalism only going to be more e-doubt, e-uncertainty and e-confusion?

    assistant devil's advocate (c9bfdd)

  8. ADA,

    Patterico is a well-educated, smart guy and fortunately there are a few others like him in America. Don’t you agree that it’s good to live in a society where someone like Patterico can have the good sense to use his brains and question what he’s told, and the ability to do it on more than a local basis?

    I bet you do and I suspect that your comment was made tongue-in-cheek.

    DRJ (51a774)

  9. drj, of course i do. if i thought patterico was a dummy, i wouldn’t read his blog. i’m just marvelling that an amateur can do a better job than professionals in the so-called “profession” of journalism. if i ran the l.a. times, i’d offer him a job – now, at a substantial premium over a prosecutor’s salary – just to get him inside the tent pissing out.

    assistant devil's advocate (c9bfdd)

  10. Thank you for keeping this story alive. I’ve referred others to your site for this exposure of how MSM does its “work”.

    I have a personal angle on this since my son(Teflon Don of Acute Politics)is in Ramadi and Badger6 is his company commander.

    raa (943d9d)

  11. I can’t view the video.

    Plays with Quicktime. There’s a link to download the player. A newscast with English voice-over and full transcript:

    This kidnapping operation was preceded by an American air and tank strike of the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad that killed at least 30 Iraqi civilians, including children. The strike concentrated on the Dabat neighborhood. The dead bodies were scattered on the ground as their families put some of them in coffins.

    As Moore reported, “[Salas] acknowledged that news photos showed ‘alleged bodies of civilians killed by coalition forces in Ramadi,’ and did not dispute reports of collateral damage.”

    steve (820f71)

  12. raa,

    I know you are justifiably proud of your son. It is my privilege to read his blog and an even greater privilege that he is willing to protect America and Americans, including my family. Many thanks to him, to you, and to your family.

    DRJ (51a774)

  13. steve,

    I am finally on a computer that can play the video. My observations relating to your comments:

    1) I don’t believe your citation of CPL Palacios-Rivera’s death has any relevance whatsoever to any point you’re trying to make. I am told by Capt. Eric Coulson, who attended his memorial service, that he died in a completely separate incident from the one described in the relevant after-action report. When he was killed, CPL Palacios-Rivera (he had been promoted, btw, something the media got wrong) was conducting a census patrol in Tameen on the other side of the river from the events described in that after-action report.

    2) Your video corroborates the statement in the Reuters report, which I cited in my original post:

    In one part of the district, a Reuters reporter saw several bodies of adult men still lying in a street, some being placed in coffins by relatives, and a number of body parts. One small structure was burnt out in that street.

    In the video, I see one small structure burnt out in the street. I do not see 15 pulverized homes. Nor do I see six houses leveled to the ground, as the newer, walked-back version claims.

    3) The video corroborates that this happened in central Ramadi, not 10 miles away in farmland, where the airstrike took place. I would like to have been told about the airstrike when I first inquired, but I don’t think an airstrike on farmland 10 miles away, that is clearly unrelated to this event, can fairly be considered in the “vicinity” of these incidents. But your mileage may vary, I suppose.

    My conclusion is that the airpower summary was a red herring.

    4) Does the video show “what appears to be remains of a child”? I can’t say for sure. It might. It looks like it could be a small head uncovered there, but I can’t clearly make out a face or anything that clearly identifies it as a head. The Reuters reporter said he saw body parts on the street. Could this be a body part? I don’t know for sure. If you forced me to choose the more likely possibility, I would say it’s more likely a child — but it’s not clear to me.

    My bottom line is that I continue to find the initial L.A. Times story very, very questionable. Where are the pulverized or flattened homes??

    Patterico (906bfc)

  14. Patterico,

    The flattened homes were in wire photos linked earlier.

    What more than providing the names, ages and occupation of eyewitnesses to the destruction angle are you seeking?

    The Abu Dhabi newscast – along with several still wire photos – indicate civilians including children were killed that day and that townsfolk placed them in coffins on the streets. The email that started all this was from an anonymous “Ramadi soldier” who said no innocent civilians were killed because he observed no one attending to the dead. He is no longer available.

    I have had Salas’s response for days and just haven’t had the time to get it into a post..

    Would love to see it. Did he dub it a “farmland airstrike” or is that your assumption?

    Ten miles from Ramadi is closer than Battery Park to Harlem. Ramadi is a city of about 400,000 and Google satmaps show its eastern suburbs densly populated. Long Beach population is also around 400,000. Would you consider Marine FA/18s dropping 2-thousand pound, laser-guided bombs on San Pedro “nearby?” I would. And I would expect to hear them.

    Your point about CPL Palacios-Rivera’s death is well-made. I stand corrected.

    Among the several “coffin” wire photos:

    http://news.scotsman.com/latest_international.cfm?id=1685782006

    steve (320835)

  15. Your coffin wire photo is from the story that says the correspondent saw only adult men.

    I missed the photos of flattened homes. Could you give me that link again?

    The point about farmland is from all the information I have gathered, from photos, maps, and discussions with military personnel in Ramadi. It’s not like San Pedro.

    I’m working on my Year in Review post, so the Ramadi follow-up post will have to wait a few more days, unfortunately. I will put it up, I promise. It’s informative.

    In any event, the video and photos you have provided are from Dhubat, in central Ramadi, where every single account says the deaths happened. You’re grasping at straws with the airstrike.

    Patterico (906bfc)

  16. Those satmaps aren’t difficult to decipher; eastern Ramadi suburbs are heavily populated. Did Salas call this a “farmland airstrike,” or is this nugget to be revealed later? Trace the river east of Ramadi, where bridges are customarily found:

    http://www.tagzania.com/item/14523

    Moore was careful to note that Salas said the bridge was the “target” and no one there was hurt. It’s not like if one or more of the guided bomb unit-31s went astray, well ever be told. The military has a way of threading needles with press reports and leaving out what they dont want in the media. I also doubt the military will ACTUALLY canvass locals to see if civilians were hit that November day…by any means. Shouldn’t be difficult, of course, with eyewitness names, ages and occupations made available.

    Did you ask Salas whether 15-20 Ramadi homes were destroyed that night and if so, by what means? He reportedly does not dispute collateral civilian deaths.

    The LA Times should have updated its story to reflect the conflicting – original – military press statement. But most available press reporting was substantially at variance with the military account. And still is.

    I appreciate your candor acknowledging the video shows what is “more likely” a child.

    [I'm still awaiting the link to the photos of flattened homes. You claimed you had provided such a link, but I never saw it. All I saw was a video that seemed to contradict the report of flattened homes. -- P]

    steve (dc68f8)

  17. steve,

    You said pictures of flattened homes were linked earlier. I have gone through the comments and see no link.

    Were they linked or not?

    If there were pictures of flattened buildings, I want to know. This may sound like a debate, but it’s not. It’s a search for the truth. You’re one of my most valuable commenters on that level. But you’re frustrating me by dangling the possibility of photos of flattened buildings in front of me. If you can’t link ‘em, e-mail ‘em. My e-mail address is on the sidebar.

    I have looked at the Google satellite maps for the area of the strike, and I thank you for the idea. I’ll include a screenshot or two in my eventual post. Looks like green farmland to me . . .

    Now I gotta get back to the year in review.

    Patterico (906bfc)

  18. I’m working around an expired link. It could have been from a November 1 Ramadi air attack and two images of flattened homes. Make sure that becomes the central issue while I look.

    The Deutsche Presse-Agentur story:

    “In Ramadi, 110 kilometres west of Baghdad, a US military raid killed at least 30 Iraqis and wounded 17, Iraqi television reported Tuesday. Iraqi police said US military carried out ground and air raids Monday night and Tuesday morning, destroying more than 20 houses. Both Iraqi authorities and the US military refused to comment.”

    You dismissed Iraqi television reporting as unreliable. An anonymous military contact told you so. Not what I would call credible rebuttal.

    It’s patently obvious shelling in a dense neighborhood in which perhaps three dozen people are left dead is not going to leave minimal building damage.

    So, what more than providing the names, ages and occupation of eyewitnesses to the destruction angle are you seeking? Was there a Salas statement you received and may we please comb through its language?

    The “farmland airstrike” is clearly a matter of conjecture or you would have named a source.

    The point is, there was both a “Coalition airstrike in the vicinity” of the day’s events and innumerable “reports of civilian casualties.” The military at first denied it and is now allowing for both.

    Subsequent reports – visual and text – likewise flatly contradict the anonymous “Ramadi solider” on which you bad-mouthed Solomon Moore’s unnamed stringer. We now know names, ages and occupations of Ramadi eyewitnesses, which strangely seems not to matter.

    steve (dc68f8)

  19. steve,

    Subsequent reports – visual and text – likewise flatly contradict the anonymous “Ramadi solider” on which you bad-mouthed Solomon Moore’s unnamed stringer. We now know names, ages and occupations of Ramadi eyewitnesses, which strangely seems not to matter.

    First of all, I did not badmouth Solomon Moore’s stringer on the strength of the anonymous soldier. I started looking into this because of his e-mail, yes. But I relied on the materials that I disclosed in the original post. I’m still getting new information. I got some from Salas, I have some from verified soldiers on the ground in Ramadi, and I’m getting some from you.

    I’m working around an expired link. It could have been from a November 1 Ramadi air attack and two images of flattened homes. Make sure that becomes the central issue while I look.

    The snark is unnecessary. My only recollection of flattened homes was from another airstrike.

    It’s not the only issue, but it’s an issue. The stringer claimed that 15 homes were pulverized. (Then he spoke to witnesses a month later who dialed it back to 6.) If that’s not true, that’s a real issue for the LAT. The photos, video, and news accounts of the Dhubat neighborhood are flatly inconsistent with the stringer’s account.

    The Deutsche Presse-Agentur story:

    “In Ramadi, 110 kilometres west of Baghdad, a US military raid killed at least 30 Iraqis and wounded 17, Iraqi television reported Tuesday. Iraqi police said US military carried out ground and air raids Monday night and Tuesday morning, destroying more than 20 houses. Both Iraqi authorities and the US military refused to comment.”

    You dismissed Iraqi television reporting as unreliable. An anonymous military contact told you so. Not what I would call credible rebuttal.

    steve, you’re making assumptions. Don’t do that. I will tell you flatly that my anonymous source is not a military source.

    In any event, we’ve now seen the very TV reporting that was discussed, thanks to your link — and thank you for that. And it shows very little destruction.

    It’s patently obvious shelling in a dense neighborhood in which perhaps three dozen people are left dead is not going to leave minimal building damage.

    I see only a handful of bodies in the video. I don’t see major building damage. Reuters described minimal damage. I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

    So, what more than providing the names, ages and occupation of eyewitnesses to the destruction angle are you seeking? Was there a Salas statement you received and may we please comb through its language?

    The “farmland airstrike” is clearly a matter of conjecture or you would have named a source.

    steve. Yes, you may comb through it. But when the post is ready. I have already said that I am working on other things right now. Do you want to pay me to do this full-time? If not, then have patience.

    The characterization of the airstrike as a farmland airstrike is based, as I have already said, on all the information I have been able to gather. I have looked at the Google satellite maps and have taken screenshots at the largest magnification available, and they appear to corroborate what two verified military sources in Ramadi have told me. My understanding is that there are scattered dwellings at most in the area — no groupings of 15 homes for kilometers. It is way east and somewhat north of the suburbs where you seem to think it happened.

    Wait for the post. You can make efforts to shoot it down then — which I will appreciate, as I always do. But I would appreciate a little more respect for me, that I take evidence seriously. The reason I pay so much attention to you is because you provide real evidence — sometimes faulty, as with anyone — but real facts.

    The point is, there was both a “Coalition airstrike in the vicinity” of the day’s events and innumerable “reports of civilian casualties.” The military at first denied it and is now allowing for both.

    Depends on your definition of vicinity. Salas told me that, for an airstrike, he does not consider it to be in the vicinity. I am inclined to agree, but wait for the post. As for civilian casualties, that may be a matter of semantics. The military initially reported that there were no reports of civilian casualties. Now the LAT says:

    Salas said insurgents fired at least three rocket-propelled grenades but overshot and missed U.S. forces. Insurgents and U.S. forces also traded mortar fire, Salas said, but there were no reports of casualties in that exchange.

    He acknowledged that news photos showed “alleged bodies of civilians killed by coalition forces in Ramadi,” and did not dispute reports of collateral damage.

    What that means, exactly, I don’t know. I have asked Salas for clarification, but he may be tired of me by now.

    You have said you think I should disclose contacts with sources. Are you willing to say what connections, if any, you have with the LAT? No big deal if you’re not. I don’t want to chase off one of my most valuable commenters. But if there is a connection there, I think you should tell people.

    Patterico (906bfc)

  20. I know no one who ever worked at the LAT. Why should I?

    You seem to indicate you know where the targeted bridge is, exactly. I’m impressed.

    That was sure one big force package.

    Civilian and media reporting is just as apt to be flawed and incomplete as statements from the military. The LAT should have included the military denial in its original reporting – as I’ve said repeatedly – but to assume it used the same stringer in its follow-up is one of many blindspots I find impairs your essays.

    steve (79815a)

  21. I was given a map that showed the target.

    Good point that the same stringer might not have been used.

    Patterico (906bfc)

  22. Feel free to list the other flaws, rather than just alluding to them.

    Patterico (906bfc)

  23. I will say that, given your lack of connection to the LAT, I’m even more complimented that you take the time to look into my stuff.

    Patterico (906bfc)

  24. Pat;

    Thanks for staying on this issue. I will continue to forward your work to the folks that first alerted me to the information in Ramadi.

    Brian (74248f)

  25. A map showing the location of the bridge target isn’t a photograph of its destruction. That seems to be your gold standard.

    The Abu Dhabi video was likely cut from Iraqi Television. I suspect that attack site was sealed off, so the news photog settled for bodies brought out and lined up outside.

    A 60-year-old man, Haji Jassim, told Inter Press Service (IPS), “We heard the bombing and we thought it was the usual fighting between resistance fighters and the Americans, but we soon realized it was bombing by large cannons. We weren’t allowed by the Americans to reach the destroyed houses to try to rescue those who were buried, so certainly many of them bled to death.

    From AP’s director of photography: “The military in Iraq has frequently detained journalists who arrive quickly at scenes of violence, accusing them of getting advance notice from insurgents.”

    http://www.fac.org/news.aspx?id=17403

    The absence of building damage images is not conlusive. Neither is the absence of evidence of the bridge being hit.

    steve (7f4fa0)

  26. [...] True, I don’t belong to the mainstream media, and I assume that was the root problem. It’s okay for the AP to come in and claim four mosques were burned down that weren’t (the Washington Post said it was five, the New York Times said two), or that six Sunnis were horribly burned alive who weren’t, or for the Los Angeles Timesthat never occurred killed dozens of women and children. But when a citizen embed (albeit one attached to a magazine) wants in, he gets shuffled off to the lemon stand. to report that an airstrike [...]

    Amused Cynic » Blog Archive » The Pentagon needs a good PR consultant (3a36c0)

  27. [...] residents” were highly suspect, as they rarely report males being killed. The LAT ultimately backed off the claims in its original story, but readers never learned whether the stringer had ties to the [...]

    Media Mythbusters Blog » Blog Archive » The Big Picture(s) [Karl] (d6d851)

  28. [...] civilians.  My military and other local sources denied the report.  Based on my post, the editors backed off their initial [...]

    » Had Enough of the Arrogance? Welcome to Big Journalism - Big Journalism (d59464)

  29. [...] press obviously and bitterly opposed the war from the start, to the point of doctoring photographs, making stuff up, pretending that its sources knew what they were talking about when they didn’t, and ignoring [...]

    BizzyBlog (e3a51b)


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